COVID-19 Impact on Emergency Services Education
COVID-19 has had an impact on everyone’s life, especially the daily work of medical providers and emergency responders. Long hours, extra work, equipment shortages and changing procedures add tremendous stress to emergency response systems and, more importantly, individual emergency responders.
As someone who not only works in emergency response but regularly teaches at large gatherings, I’m seeing many local, regional, and even national education events being canceled or rescheduled. This unfortunate, but necessary consequence of the spread of COVID-19 has lead many to ask if there will be a permanent change to the way emergency response education is delivered.
Are conferences as we know them a thing of the past? Are we no longer doing training drills together? Is all education going online?
While I believe that there is tremendous value in the availability, convenience, and now safety of online training, webinars, podcasts, and the like, there will always be a role for emergency responders to gather together to interact face-to-face. Online formats often lend themselves to better TRANSFER of knowledge, but direct interaction, such as at drills, classes, and conferences, can lead to better APPLICATION of that knowledge. Of course, it depends on the individual classes, educators, and students, but I strongly believe that there is no substitute for the non-verbal communication and human interaction that helps us understand how to improve our performance and the performance of the systems in which we work.
I certainly hope that the increased awareness of common sanitary protections that COVID-19 has raised (like improved hand-washing, increased use of sanitizer, and a decrease in the practice of licking one’s hand before handshakes) will continue long after we emerge from our homes into the Summer sun. There are lessons of preparedness and the importance of supporting emergency response systems that I hope are not forgotten by our leaders and the public in general.
The COVID-19 problem will test, but not break our emergency responders. Things will have to change for a while, and emergency services will do what we need to, as we always do. And when it is safe to do so, we’ll gather together to support each other, share lessons learned, and most importantly help each other prepare for whatever the next challenge is. Because that’s how we get the job done.